Former council worker John O’Brien, 63, had dozens of indecent images of children, featuring boys aged just three and girls as young as five.
The pervert also downloaded revolting extreme porn files showing bestiality with horses and canines, reports Liverpool Echo.
A court heard O’Brien 15 Category A photos and videos – the most serious category showing child rape – involving girls aged five to 10 were found on the man’s three laptops.
A further 15 Category B files, of boys aged just three or four, and girls as young as six were found, and 31 Category C photos, showing girls aged 10 to 12, and 25 extreme porn images were also noticed.
But the defendant walked free from court yesterday after a judge acknowledged his “good elements to his character”, including treating injured soldiers in the first Gulf War and 25 years working for Liverpool Council.
Sentencing O’Brien at Liverpool Crown Court, Judge Smith said: “It’s hard in my judgement to conclude otherwise than you were sexually motivated in your possession of these images.”
The judge gave the grandfather a two-year community order, with a 35-day Rehabilitation Activity Requirement and three-month home curfew, from 8pm to 8am daily.
She told him to sign on the Sex Offenders Register and comply with a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for five years and warned that if he breached any of the orders he would likely go to jail.
Paul Blasbery, prosecuting, said O’Brien was present when officers raided his home in West Derby, Liverpool, on December 14, 2018.
The defendant was interviewed by police and accepted using a peer-to-peer programme to download files.
“He admitted seeing porn involving children but [said he] didn’t particularly seek this kind of material,” Mr Blasberry said.
“He said he would search for movies and that would throw up all kinds of results including the porn.”
O’Brien admitted three counts of downloading and one count of possessing indecent images of children, plus one count of possessing extreme porn.
Desmond Lennon, defending, said O’Brien had no previous convictions, cautions or reprimands.
He said: “It’s an unhappy state of affairs to find somebody of his age and background before the court for offences such as these, which are serious to say the least.”
Mr Lennon said the offences dated back more than two years, so were “old” in one sense, adding: “Thankfully he hasn’t been in trouble since then.”
The lawyer said: “He accepts that he downloaded the material and in spite of what he said in the pre-sentence report, he accepts that what he did was entirely wrong.
“He now has an understanding as it does say in the report that behaviour such as this is harmful in perpetuating the misery of children involved.”
Mr Lennon said O’Brien had “difficulty” in accepting that he obtained sexual gratification from the images.
He said it was a “relatively small” number but accepted the Category A images would be of “real concern” to the court.
The barrister said O’Brien lived a “solitary lifestyle” and hadn’t worked for some time because of two bouts of cancer.
Mr Lennon said: “He had a very good work record working for the local council for 25 years as a landscape gardener and working in housing maintenance.
“He also tells me he was involved in the Territorial Army for a number of years. He was in fact deployed to Saudi Arabia in the first Gulf War for a period of three months.
“While not deployed in combat, he was a combat medic, involved in the creation of a hospital at Riyadh airport in Saudi Arabia and was substantially involved in the assistance and treatment of troops.
“So there are good elements to his character – it’s just very sad this area of his character has emerged at a mature stage of his life.”
Mr Lennon said his client was assessed as posing a medium risk of serious harm to children.
He suggested this risk could be managed in the community and that less rehabilitative work would take place in prison because of current conditions during the pandemic.
Mr Lennon said the Probation Service believed O’Brien would benefit from courses designed to stop sexual offending.
He told the court O’Brien had a son who lives locally, but whom he spoke to “very occasionally” and last did a year ago, and a daughter who lives in America, plus a baby granddaughter.
The lawyer said: “He has reasonable contact with his daughter and in the report expresses hope to travel to the USA.
“He may not have realised that this conviction is a potential barrier to that ambition.”
Mr Lennon said O’Brien underwent surgery to remove a tumour in his mouth in January, but was awaiting further scans to see if it had travelled to his lymph nodes, and was previously treated for cancer in 2017.
He said: “I do urge your honour to give him a chance today. If given a chance he will accept it and respond accordingly.”